Getting the most out of your Camera Bag
A quality camera bag is an important and sizeable investment, in fact for most photographers it’s probably next in line after camera body and lenses. Like any piece of equipment you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it, that includes both how to best pack your camera bag and how to best care for your bag.
Packing a camera bag
Whether an amateur or a pro, every photographer knows that preparation for your shoot is the key to everything running smoothly and you getting that perfect shot. Having the right equipment on hand and organised in the right way makes a huge difference when you’re out in the field and need to access your gear. One of the best ways to be prepared on the day is to put some thought into packing your camera bag. Take a look below for our top tips on how to pack a camera bag:
Decide What You’re Going To Take
The first step in packing your camera bag is to figure out what you’re going to take on your outing. Are you heading out for a couple of hours to take a few snaps in the city? Or are you heading away for a multi-day expedition in the wilderness? Your mission will largely dictate what equipment you need - which in turn will dictate which camera bag is best for you to take.
For a short excursion with a single camera body and one or two lenses, you could get away with a small cross body camera bag or a sling type camera bag. For a multi-day mission, you’re going to need a lot more firepower and a bigger bag to carry your equipment. Choose the right sized bag accordingly.
Set Up The Bag
Once you’ve decided which bag you’re taking, you need to get it set up for the mission ahead. Most camera bags will have adjustable dividers and inserts. These are generally fixed to the internal walls of the bag via velcro – just pull them off and stick them back on in whatever configuration suits you best.
Always make sure that your precious bodies and lenses are snuggly contained, you don’t want your stuff rattling around and getting damaged - store smaller items in separate compartments to avoid losing them in transit. And if your lenses and bodies are a bit loose, just wrap them in a t-shirt or other spare fabric to pad the bag out further.
Get Organized With Packing Cubes
An alternative to dividers is to utilize camera packing cubes. These are small ‘bags within a bag’ with plenty of padding and usually a zip-up style. Filling camera cubes up with your equipment then packing the cubes into larger bags offers an extra layer of protection.
It’s also possible to use camera equipment packing cubes as an alternative to a camera specific bag. Put your camera gear inside the cubes, and then place the cubes in your everyday backpack. This can be a versatile option for many photographers. See here for more information on packing a bag that is not a camera bag.
Utilize Tripod Straps
Some larger bags like the Langly Multi Globetrotter will have tripod straps on the outside of the bag. These straps are often found under the base of the bag – simply place the tripod at the base of the bag, tighten the straps, and secure the quick release buckles to hold your tripod in place.
The advantage of storing your tripod externally is it leaves more space inside your bag for other essentials. Be careful when placing your bag down on the ground, so the tripod doesn’t get scratched or damaged in the process.
Don't Forget About The Extras
Remember to pack all of the other photography essentials you might need to get the best out of your trip. This could include things like protective camera lens cases, lens cleaners, extra straps, memory cards and cases and spare battery cases.
You might also want to think about packing non-camera gear such as food (always keep it in an air tight container to avoid leakage), water (often best to keep your water bottle in an external pocket for quick access) and clothes (a jacket or extra sweater etc.).
Only Take What You Need.
It seems obvious, but you don't need to take every piece of equipment you own. Camera gear is fragile and sensitive, and prone to breakages when under pressure from heavier items in a bag (like water bottles, hiking equipment, etc). Leaving behind all of the extras allows you to travel light and minimize the potential for damage.
Keep Your Equipment Handy
Camera specific backpacks and bags tend to fully unzip a bit like a suitcase allowing the whole bag to open up for easy access and visual identification of all of your camera gear. Everyday backpacks, of course, don't have this feature, they usually only open from the top. If you are just using a normal backpack to carry your camera gear though, you will need to try to keep the equipment you plan on using the most at the top of the bag, so it's easily accessible when you're in a hurry.
Probably the best quick access option though is a shoulder bag, especially if you’re travelling light. You can quickly swing round and open up a shoulder bag to gain access to your gear in minimal time.
- Keep Your Equipment Dry
It's a given that camera equipment doesn't like water. This is why dedicated camera bags are always designed with weatherproofing in mind. If your bag doesn't have a high degree of water resistance (including water-resistant zips), the contents will undoubtedly get wet in undesirable weather.
We can't always predict the weather - going out on a wet day with a regular backpack full of camera gear is a bit of a gamble at the best of times. You'll need to think about adding some sort of layer of waterproofing when packing your bag. The simplest option is to place your equipment inside a clean plastic bag within your backpack – however, this method is not foolproof, and moisture can build inside of plastic which can be just as bad! Plus it also adds another obstacle to navigate when accessing your equipment.
Caring for your camera bag
Camera bags are utility items made to be used out in the field. They are designed to be taken into all sorts of environments, encountering all kinds of terrain and conditions experiencing their fair share of wear and tear.
Over the course of its lifetime, your camera bag will become dirty, stained and maybe even smell a little funky! Yes, like everything, your bag is going to need the occasional clean. The good news is caring for and washing your camera bag is easy, and doing so will prolong the life of your bag.
4 Steps For Washing A Camera Bag
Washing your camera bag isn’t as simple as throwing it in the machine; you need to take care to avoid damaging materials, zips and internal features. Follow these four steps, and your camera bag will not only be clean, it will also be refreshed and ready to go on your next adventure!
Empty The Bag
It sounds obvious, but the first step for cleaning your camera bag is to empty it completely. Take out all of the items and any dividers or inserts that are inside the bag. Having an empty bag will make the cleaning process much more manageable.
Clean The Inside Of The Bag
Most camera bags have a foam padded interior lined with a soft fabric. This fabric can be quite delicate, which in turn requires delicate handling. Use a soft brush or a cloth and gently work out any dirty or stained areas. Warm soapy water will dislodge most grime from your bag.
Avoid the use of any type of vacuum cleaner or harsh bristled brush when cleaning the inside of the bag. If you have a lot of dirt or dust and must use a vacuum cleaner, use this on a low suction setting – just enough power to pick up the dust and dirt, but not enough to damage any of the interior.
Clean The Outside Of The Bag
The exterior of your camera bag is the most likely area to become dirty simply because it’s exposed to the environment wherever you go. Bags take a beating when on photographic adventures; they are left on the ground, dragged through the undergrowth and much worse!
Again, warm soapy water and a soft cloth is the best and most gentle option for cleaning the exterior of your bag including the buckles, straps and any other bag hardware.
Air It Out
Lastly, you can now air your bag out. Leave it wide open with all zips and pockets left undone. This will help dry the bag, and it will also help to deodorize the bag as well. If you leave the bag in direct sunlight, the UV rays will help disinfect it, but be aware that this may also lead to some minor fading.
Cleaning Your Camera Bag - Frequently Asked Questions
There are often a lot of questions around washing camera bags and avoiding damaging their internal and external fabrics and materials so we put together this handy list of frequently asked questions to avoid any misunderstandings.
What Cleaning Products Should I Use To Wash A Bag?
Warm soapy water will take care of 99% of your camera bag cleaning needs. However, for super stubborn stains and cleaning requirements, we recommend using Grangers Gear Cleaner (or similar products).
Can I Put A Bag In The Washing Machine?
No, never put your camera bag in a washing machine, even on a delicate or hand wash setting. Washing machines are far too aggressive when it comes to cleaning items like camera bags.
Can I Put A Bag In A Tumble Dryer?
No, never use a tumble dryer to dry your bag, even on a low or delicate setting. The heat generated by a tumble dryer and the harsh rotating and tumbling action may damage your bag.
Can A Camera Bag Be Dry Cleaned?
No, dry cleaning your camera bag is not recommended. The dry-cleaning process is not suitable for technical bags and may damage the bag.
How Do I Dry A Bag Once I’ve Washed It?
The best way to dry your nicely washed bag is to line dry it. Open up all the zips and compartments to aid airflow, and this will decrease the time it takes to dry. Never dry your bag by exposing it to high heat sources such as fireplaces or radiators; these high heats can damage the materials the bag is made from.
How Do I Stop My Bag From Smelling?
Has your bag developed a bit of a stink? The good news is it is possible to rid camera bags of bad odours. The above cleaning process is a good start, but you may need to do a bit more to eradicate stubborn doors. Febreze Fabric Refresher or laundry dryer sheets can do the trick but keep in mind if using a spray, be sure to let your bag air-dry entirely before using it. We also recommend spot-testing an area with cleaning product before cleaning the entire bag.